Meaning would *always* be "contained" in poems if one assumes a Romantic
notion of meaning, or even a later New Critical one; meaning would *never*
be "contained" in poems if one assumes a structuralist notion of meaning in
the sense of language being a system of differences with no positive terms
Maybe both those senses are unsatisfactory [KJ]
Yes. That's pretty much akin to the container v representation distinction,
I think. If that's not too reductive. And it's the fact of their being
analogies (as with _all_ analogies) that makes them partial and therefore
meaning is constructed via complex negotiations of social and cultural
Yes. And the social-construction-of-meaning view moves meaning _out_ of
language, at least in any containerised sense. Which begs the question of
where *truth* or *reality*, meaning's gold standard for correspondence
theories, actually is. Peirce (coming out of pseudo Scotus) would put it in
the world. The other approach is to make it entirely the object of
consensus, there being no there there, as it were. How to straddle _that_
Maybe [...] it *is*, actually, more interesting to think of a poem's
relationship to meaning in the sense of "holding back or obstructing," [KJ]
Yes again, to obstructing.
And I'd distinguish between three sorts (unless I think of some more).
First there's the pitting of the (comparatively) fixed and 'closed' text
against a changing language and a dynamic social understanding. Another
version of what I'd suggested earlier to Alison, that the 'openness' of
poetry requires moving _outside_ the text. Fish as what is caught and
valuable or interesting, which will alter over time.
Obstruction makes things tricky for the fish. Or the reader (not just
Stanley necessarily). Chomping through a boneless chunk of flesh is much
less interesting than extracting the bones as one goes. The risk of an
errant bone is important. Choking is good for you, provided it doesn't
happen. Just as the possibility of an unremoved, fatally poisonous nerve
presumably adds ontological piquancy to the flavour of puffer fish. Slowing
down or disrupting the ordinary acts of eating, reading or saying is one
feature of this sort of obstruction. Trust in oneself, the chef, the poet,
the language or the reader (and the risk of being let down) is another.
Where poetry isn't declarative (describing a state of affairs, as in
narrative) or constative (representing a state of affairs, as in drama),
where it's most distinctive, it's performative, I believe. Do writer and
reader face one another across the divide (or the bridge) of the text
carrying out acts which are (to use JL Austin's terms) equivalently
*illocutionary* (trusting, loving, hating, promising, insisting and so
forth) or *perlocutionary* (creating the presence of something ceremonially)
according to a proairetic encoded in the work? The terms are ponderous, but
this feels to me broadly correct: poetry as, in effect, sequences of
instructions which lead the practitioner into impossible states. Gertrude
Stein rather precisely said that 'paragraphs are emotional _not because they
express an emotion_ but because they register _or limit_ an emotion'
(_emphasis_ mine) and gave an example - 'A dog which you have never had
before has sighed' - of something visibly like what I mean by 'proairetic',
encoded into a sentence. She also spoke of how it used to be possible to
say, 'Ah moon' and the moon was there. Which is a good example of what I
mean by 'perlocutionary'.
And, thirdly, there's obstruction not as a kind of guidance by the text, a
limiting or delimiting in Stein's sense, but as *unreadability*, resistance
to being read at all, so that what's important, what's being delimited isn't
either the saying or _in_ the saying but is the result of the inadequacy of
the saying (and the reading) and is (apophatically) what _isn't_ being said.
And that, I think, is where I disagree with Alison's sense of poetry as
*parole* to something else's *langue*, which still seems to me a distinction
within a view of poetry as symbolic code, as though a Philippe Starck chair
(to change the artform) were a ludic resistance to over-earnest *chairness*.
What I have in mind is that interesting territory where language shatters
Which may be a good place to stop.